1,000 EVs recharging at once: Coming to a shopping centre near you | RenewEconomy

1,000 EVs recharging at once: Coming to a shopping centre near you

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Study predicts this very scenario for Australia’s near future – and warns that without smarter power networks, it could tip our grid over the edge.

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What would happen if an Australian shopping centre car park needed to host one thousand EVs all looking for a quick recharge at the same time on a hot summer’s day?

According to a new white paper by NOJA Power, it’s a scenario that could quite easily become a reality in just a few years’ time. And without some major enhancements to Australia’s network capabilities, and its renewable energy capacity, it’s a scenario that could easily enough tip our electricity grid over the edge.

Today, EVs only represent a small fraction of Australia’s vehicle fleet – a total of just 253 EVs were sold nationwide during 2012. But according to industry predictions, rising fossil fuel costs and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions is likely to see this number increase to one million EVs on Australian highways by 2022.

Australian utilities, meanwhile, generated 227TWh of electricity in 2010 – or around 622 GWh per day. And according to the NOJA white paper, a fleet of one million EVs would require about an additional 4.8 per cent on top of this daily total to recharge its batteries.

But as the NOJA white paper points out, this could be a tall order for the Australian grid in its current state, with very little spare capacity at times of peak demand. Which brings us back to the problem of what happens when you add 1000-odd EVs plugging in one place at one time, on a hot summer’s day?

“I can picture a scenario where on a hot day in Queensland, Australia, in the near future a shopping centre car park is hosting one thousand EVs all looking for a quick recharge before returning home,” says Neil O’Sullivan, Managing Director of NOJA Power.

“Commercial charging points are likely to offer 415 volt/32 amp three-phase power allowing each EV to receive up to 13.2 kilowatts. That’s 13.2 megawatts just for that one car park. And those vehicles could be taking power for perhaps an hour or two.

“There are three million vehicles in Queensland. If, for example, in the near future, 10 per cent of those are EVs and a quarter of those EVs are simultaneously being quick charged across the state the utilities could see nearly 1000 megawatts of additional demand,” says O’Sullivan. “The peak demand seen in Queensland is around 8900MW, so an additional 1000MW is easily enough to tip the grid over the edge if it occurs at the wrong time.”

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To avoid such future scenarios, NOJA says, we will need to invest in smart grid technologies – and in particular, smart grids equipped with automatic circuit reclosers (ACRs), which would allow the connection to the large installed base of renewable energy sources that would be needed to ensure EVs could deliver on their low-carbon promise.

“ACRs are fundamental building blocks for smart grids,” says O’Sullivan. “The ability of reclosers to help utilities closely match supply and demand, rapidly switch in renewable energy sources and protect the grid is essential if the future additional demand from EVs is to met.”

According to the paper, the units allow utilities to control and monitor renewable energy connections to the electrical grid while at the same time protecting valuable renewable energy assets. ACRs can also help to balance peak loads through control of renewable or storage energy into or out of the grid.

A smart grid provides sufficient flexibility for utilities to tap into diverse sources of renewable power – including co-generation facilities from large customers – at relatively short notice, maximising the EV’s carbon emission reductions, says the paper.

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  1. Beat Odermatt 7 years ago

    We have the technology to make EV
    producing some of their own electricity (solar). If more EV will hit
    the market, their will be some challenges, but we have the technology
    for (smart) solutions. The time has come where Governments can help
    to spawn an increased use of EV in Australia. I noted a lot’s of EV
    in many cites across Norway. I was told that parking for EV vehicles
    is free in all cities in Norway. What a simple way to help a new
    green technology.

    • Miles Harding 7 years ago

      Too late, it’s already been done!
      Not by putting panels on the car, but by putting them on the house. The economics of replacing petrol by PV energy makes good sense.
      1 KW of PV panels can drive a Mitsubishi i-Miev about 40km per day, or an equivalent of about $1300 in petrol at today’s prices. not bad for $1000 worth of PV panel!

      • Bob_Wallace 7 years ago

        And that $1,000 worth of panels is going to power your EV for 40+ years (with a roughly 0.5% drop in output per year).

        $1,300 x 40 = a heck of a lot of money that can be saved by switching to an EV.

        • Miles Harding 7 years ago

          This is a current (yuk!) project at home. It might almost make the EV a sound economic choice. 🙂
          More than that, EVs are really pleasant to drive around town. Quiet and efficient when stopped, which is a lot of the time in Perth and surprisingly zippy when going. The i-Miev’s regenerative braking has been the biggest surprise, allowing one foot driving most of the time.

  2. Malcolm Scott 7 years ago


    A fair enough article for a Noja Power point of view with an interest in transforming
    to smart grids. I can’t find the said paper to read more closely. The presentations by Energix at the recent Solar Council conference might suggest that a million 5 kW air conditioners turned on in Queensland on a hot day at 6pm is far more challenging. I don’t think we need to get into hypotheticals of EVs far in the future to justify smart grids.

    Demand side management seems reasonable for air conditioning. Distribution company imposed demand side management will not be acceptable for EVs in the wild. Owners are away from home and have commitments compelling them to move on, even if just to avoid the parking fees.

    Is this a problem for EVs? How credible is the cited scenario?

    Most EVs (Leaf, Fiat 500e, Spark EV, et al) have practical ranges of 110 to 130 kms,
    with Tesla’s Model S having a much longer range. Given normal practice of delayed slow charging when the EV is not being used (at 3 or 6 kW), the probability of any owner needing to quick recharge at the shopping centre is relatively small. Moreover, such charging services have their own business models (like commercial parking stations) and will have premium electricity tariffs to be avoided if possible.

    Currently, EVs are typically slow charged at home or at work owing to relatively slow
    charge rate limitations. Next generation batteries expected from about 2015 will extend EV ranges and perhaps have faster charging options. Nevertheless,
    home and at work charging will remain preferred owing to the favourable tariffs
    that are or will be available in a competitive market. The probability for unavoidable fast charging at the shopping centre might diminish over time.

    Unavoidable, fast charging is most likely for long distance travels or for those who fail to plan. Because of varying electricity tariffs and the business models necessary for public charging, mass fast charging at a single location is an improbable scenario.

    Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the day where it is the case. Distributers could be doing more to encourage consumers to buy EVs and hence generate more revenue for their sunk cost infrastructure investments, and to soak up solar PV. 4.8% additional electricity demand would stop a lot of whinging and be a tariff cost reducing force.

  3. Bob_Wallace 7 years ago

    ““I can picture a scenario where on a hot day in Queensland, Australia, in the near future a shopping centre car park is hosting one thousand EVs all looking for a quick recharge before returning home”

    A bit over the top?

    I don’t live in AU. Perhaps you have tons of people who live many miles from shopping driving to do their shopping and needing a charge to get home. We’d be talking about a large number of people who drive 50 miles or more to shop.

    Where I live if you get 50 miles from shopping you’ve got a pretty thin population count. It would be hard to scare up a thousand people a day to go shopping.

    And one out of ten of these people shopping each day? And all charging at the same time rather than in ‘shifts’? Level 3 charging should mean about 20 minutes of charge time per vehicle. We might see a half dozen cars plugged into the same rapid charger so that their owners can go shopping, but they might be getting charged in sequence, not simultaneously.

    Shopping centers would probably opt for installing slower chargers as a way to hold customers for a while. Make one hour charging free or very cheap.

    Add a few higher-priced chargers for those who want a charge quickly.

    Finally, I’ve no experience with your country. But a thousand cars in a US shopping center/centre would be unusual. A thousand from greater than 50 miles away would be extremely unusual.

    • Robert Comerford 3 years ago

      Bob , if my experiences in areas such as the east bay area of SF are anything to go by. Big US shopping malls are empty most of the time. Here in Oz they are full of people, often 24/7. Late night shopping nights mean it is very hard to find a space in the multistory carparks.
      However I think the scenario is nonsense. Maximum current draw will regulated at each installation either by shutting down access or reducing all the charge currents to within total capacity of system.

      • Wallace 3 years ago

        Wow, four years later. I don’t think I’ve seen a thread rise from the grave that late. ;o)

        Do you think a lot of AU people would be charging in shopping mall parking lots? Looks to me as if AU is on route to having its cheapest electricity in the middle of the day. Why wouldn’t we see lots of regular 240 vac outlets at workplace and school parking lots?

        High draws are only needed for rapid charging. When one is taking a long trip, longer than their battery range which will almost certainly settle in above 200 miles.

        The average commute in the US is about 35 miles, round trip. Replacing that 35 miles during an 8 hour work day (or nighttime sleep) requires only a normal outlet.

        The Nissan Leaf gets an EPA “Five Cycle Test” range of 73 miles and can fully recharge in 4 hours from a normal 240 vac outlet. That’s 18 miles per hour. Two hours per day of charging is all the average driver would need.

        Economics might mean that sunny, but not windy places, could see more daytime charging. Windy, but not so sunny places, could see more late night charging. EV battery charging is a dispatchable load and should follow the least expensive electricity to some extent.

        • Robert Comerford 3 years ago

          I didn’t realise it was an old thread. It was shown as an option on the home page.
          I can’t see why charging may not be part of parking at shopping malls in the future. If I was the owner, might have a few quick chargers, short stay for a fee and plenty of slow charging outlets for free to encourage them to stay longer and shop :>)
          I was just pointing out a difference between the mall use I had noticed in the US and here.
          I would often go for a jog up to the Sun Valley Mall in Concord CA (as one example) and find the place almost deserted.

          • Bob_Wallace 3 years ago

            Every once in awhile someone will stumble on an old thread while doing a search. No harm.

            I’m not sure people would do a lot of charging at shopping centers because most people wouldn’t be there that long. Most charging is likely to occur where people park for long periods (home, work, school). And rapid charging along major travel routes.

            That said, our local Tesla Supercharger is located at the outer edge of a shopping mall. But it is right on the highway.

            My guess is that shopping centers are going to have less and less business going forward. Shopping online is becoming very attractive.

  4. Bob_Wallace 7 years ago

    Another point. If shopping centers do see large numbers of EVs wanting to charge during the day they are likely to install PV over their parking lots. That’s a brand new profit center created from a non-performing asset.

    I’m all for smartening the grid, but using unrealistic scenarios to justify it isn’t a good idea.

  5. Miles Harding 7 years ago

    “Today, EVs only represent a small fraction of Australia’s vehicle fleet”

    That fraction is about 1 in 10,000 and not looking like increasing substantially any time soon. The expected EV sales have not materialised, this is likely due to:

    a) continued high EV prices – currently 3 times that of a comparable petrol vehicle

    b) low oil prices – peak oil has not bitten as expected*

    c) the motoring press’s obsession with range anxiety, fast recharge and long range**

    d) depressed economic conditions

    So far, the single EV bay at some shopping centres is largely unoccupied.
    * It is likely a factor in stubbornly sluggish economies.
    ** not an issue for most consumers

    The story points to this sort of opportunity charging model not being feasible in an electrified vehicle environment. Vehicle charging will ultimately have to be sensitive to the availability of supply and likely will have to occur late at night or when excess renewable energy is available (this is a trend that the QLD government can’t stop) and not at the whims of consumers seeking stuff on a hot day.
    One way to control this would be to make these ‘charge points’ charge points. Pricing electricity at these so that consumers are discouraged unless desperate would likely eliminate the issue.

    “automatic reclosers”… how quaint!, especially in the same paragraph as ‘smart grid’. The EV charging standards allow dynamic control over the power draw by individual vehicles. Of course, the owners may arrive back to discover that no charging at all has occurred!

    • Bob_Wallace 7 years ago

      It’s going to be interesting to see what pulls down the cost of EVs in Australia. Will it be from manufacturing starting up in-country like has happened in the UK and US? Or from cheaper imports from China?

      • Miles Harding 7 years ago

        I think the answer will be China addressing its ‘crazy bad’ air pollution.

        In 2007, interest in EVs peaked at about the same time as the oil price peaked, indeed attendances at AEVA (Aust. Electric Vehicle Association) follow these fuel price trends, so this looks to be a significant driver.

        I think that the (petrol head) motoring press has a lot to answer for. Their consistent message has been that EVs are of no practical use unless they can be driven 500km and recharged in less than 5 minutes. They completely miss the point that EVs are really good at the things that ICE vehicles are really bad at, such as short trips and on congested roads.

        Also, any EV that meets the 500km requirement represents a radical improvement in battery technology. I am skeptical that this can be achieved with the sort of safety needed in consumer devices.

        At present, the Holden/Chevy volt is a good compromise, it can be driven many (60+) kms on its battery before the petrol engine will start. But it is expensive and consumes significanlty more electrical energy than does the small and lighter all-electric i-Miev.

        • Bob_Wallace 7 years ago

          Let me suggest that the threshold for widespread EV adoption is a range of roughly 180 miles/ 300 km and a 90% recharge in no more than 20 minutes capability.

          That would give one the ability to drive all day long with two modest length stops. (180 + 162 + 162 = 500 miles/800 km)

          If you’re driving a gasmobile you’re going to stop once for fuel and most people are going to stop once to eat. That’s two stops. Same-same.

          If rapid charge points are set up so that one doesn’t have to stand by the charger while charging and restaurants/toilets/web connections are available almost no one is going to feel inconvenienced.

          We’ve got 90%/<20m charging. We've got battery technology in the lab that will deliver the 180m/300km range. We hit that point and the market will switch incredibly fast and we'll put oil behind us.

          And I think China is going to be a leader in the transformation. They don't seem to be dealing with the same fossil fuel knuckleheads that we fight in the US, AU and other western countries. I think we are no more than five years away from a 'brave new personal transportation world'. And one that is going to serve us all very well.

    • Mark Roest 3 years ago

      What could possibly make this happen? a) continued high EV prices – currently 3 times that of a comparable petrol vehicle

      • Wallace 3 years ago

        There have been multiple claims of when EVs become as cheap as ICEVs to manufacture. The range of prices I’ve found run from $150/kWh to ~$300/kWh for the battery pack (not cells).

        Tesla has been paying less than $190/kWh for over a year. GM is paying $145/kWh for cells. The cost of building a pack adds 20% to 30% to the cost of cells, so $174/kWh to $189/kWh for GM.

        We’re already inside the range.

        When the Panasonic/Tesla Gigafactory is running at speed it is expected that Tesla’s battery packs will drop at least 30%. That means lower than $135/kWh. Less than the bottom of the range
        – $150/kWh.

        The rest of the high cost of EVs seems to be low volume production. Administrative and R&D costs are being spread over very few units compared to a high volume car like the Camry. Tesla is quickly ramping to 500,000 EVs per year. That should greatly bring down their overhead.

        The Tesla Model 3 at $35,000 base price should probably be compared to other ‘entry level’ luxury cars. Here’s a list of the ‘most affordable luxury cars’.

        2017 Infiniti Q50 2.0T Base. $33,950.
        2017 Cadillac ATS 2.0T. $33,215.
        2017 BMW 230i. $32,850.
        2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. $32,400.
        2017 Acura TLX Base. $31,900.
        2017 Lexus CT 200h. $31,250.
        2017 Audi A3 2.0T Premium. $31,200.
        2017 Acura ILX Base. $27,990.

        The BMW Series 3 starts at $33,450.
        The Mercedes C Class starts at $39,500

        From what we know about the Model 3 it will be competing in this range, not against the Tata Nano.

  6. Wayne Kirby 3 years ago

    This scenerio goes beyond shopping centres. Thousands of workers are going to return home from peak hour traffic and plug their vehicles in. This will be potentially more significant then coming home and turning on air conditioners. The solution maybe in requiring EV’s to be fitted with smart connections that allow the grid operators to temporarily turn off charging at home in times of peak demand. Delaying the charging of an EV by a few hours at home would not be a significant inconvenience.

    • Wallace 3 years ago

      I suspect we’ll end up with the grid largely determining when EVs charge. For a discounted rate you’ll allow the grid to turn your charger on or off as electricity is more or less available. The utility would be required to charge your car up to a minimum you set.

      it may well be that we’ll see a lot of workplace parking lot charge outlets in sunny places like Australia and Southern California. The grid in those places will have extra power in the morning and middle of the day. Charging EVs then means that the energy won’t have to be saved to charge those EVs when the drivers get home.

      EVs should be a huge dispatchable load which will greatly help smoothing out supply/demand differences.

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